Friday 6 April 2007

Capitaine Ulysse

There are several bottles of champagne and cava knocking about the house but the best one is at the bottom of my tool box, under a fine sheen of sawdust. I don’t know if it’s the best place for storing plonk of this calibre but the flexible organisational structure of the Invisible Workshop permits a degree of domestic overlap. The bottle in question came from a valued friend of mine, Jean-Martial Audy, and I hope to break it on the bows of Onawind Blue at the launch.

It was my cruise to Ibiza last summer with Martial, aboard his boat Capitaine Ulysse that tipped the scales of my boating dream and set in motion the small personal odyssey that is the building of Onawind Blue and the writing of this blog. As such it seems fitting to use Martial’s bottle to launch my waterborne adventure.

Martial is a yachtsman of the Moitessier school of thought—a single-handed, long distance, sea tramp who’s garnered much knowledge and many yarns in his extensive career.

In the 70’s he bought a Chinese junk and coasted down from France to Ibiza. Here he cruised, worked and chartered for the best part of three years before selling up and returning to France to oversee the building of his present boat Capitaine Ulysse. (The junk can still be found in Balearic waters.) Built in Normandy between 1979 and 81 Capitaine Ulysse is one of eight Trisbal 42s. These are tough, blue-water cruisers characterised by their sturdy aluminium hulls, drop keels and fractional rigs.

Our trip was fairly typical of a cruise in the western Mediterranean in that we saw the entire gamut of Mediterranean weather in the 72 hour crossing. From glassy calms to marauding thunder storms of towering cumulus shooting off 50 knot winds, strafing hail and firework displays of ear-splitting proximity; all this contrasting with steady force fours on the stern quarter, dolphins and clear blue skies. In all weathers Martial managed his craft with a gentle, easy-going calm that told of many nautical miles in three different oceans.

In late 81 he sailed away from Fecamp on the Normandy coast and spent the best part of 17 years cruising the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, California, Polynesia and Chile.

He returned by way of Cape Horn but met a storm as he turned left into the Atlantic. The shallow waters over the continental shelf off eastern Argentina jacked up the swell to form savage rollers. Helming Ulysse from the interior steering position Martial felt the stern lift and saw the speed indicator rise to 15 knots as the boat started to surf. But this was a huge wave and as it steepened Ulysse started to slew to one side, to broach to, in one mad second the wave broke, rolling and de-masting the boat.

The damaged Capitaine was towed into Port Stanley in the Falkland Isles where Martial put the conveniently mastless boat in a container for storage and returned to France to re-group. A year later he was back in Port Stanley where he spent three months fitting out Capitaine Ulysse for the journey north. After a spate of bad storms he eventually left, escorting Karen Thorndike, the first American woman to complete a single-handed circumnavigation passing the three stormy capes, in her Rival 36 to the Argentine coast.

Nowadays Capitaine Ulysse leads a calmer life, Martial has carried out various projects to make the boat more comfortable for Mediterranean cruising, a re-designed interior, a larger fridge and a bimini. But there’s no disguising Ulysse’s blue-water pedigree; with sails and centreboards balanced and a lively wind from abaft the beam the Capitaine, galloping among the white horses, shakes manes of spray from the bows.

Capitaine Ulysse and Jean-Martial.


Unknown said...

Capitaine Ulysse!!!!!

So happy see You again!!!
Have good wind...
lot's kisses

Anonymous said...

Ahhh Yes, many a good day and night spent aboard Capitaine Ulysse! here in the Hawaiian Islands...oh the stories to tell!
later visited with Jean Marcial at his home in Meymac...
meeting his Mum in Paris and Brothers...
Love and Aloha to You My Friend!
if this reaches you my cell is 808 383 0883
email addy
love to hear from you

Blue eyed Sailor said...

Blue eyed sailor....
Hello Jean Marcel wherever you may be now! This is your blue eyed sailor Debbie who sailed around Cape Horn with you!
Think of you often with the picture you gave me of myself with Dan and Suzanne...white frothing rollers in the back drop, the French Flag flying horizontal with 40knot + winds as we rounded Cape Horn...only next was a Rogue wave that arose out of the wash machine of where the Atlantic meets the Pacific Ocean, "Cabo de Horonos" in the back drop...we shook the water off our backs to the sound of a pop!! from the Champagne bottle pulled from your infamous stash of hidden pleasures!! To the Horn!!
Cheers to you!! What a life adventure! Thank you for the trip of a life time!
Love to hear from you!
alias Debbie Fitzgerald

Anonymous said...

... et moi j'ai un souvenir formidable d'un 4 juillet (1990, 1991?) dans la baie de San Francisco, sur Capitaine Ulysse!!
Emmanuel (

Sonia schuller bourdon said...

Salut à Jean martial et capitaine ulysse ....sonia et yves st bath st martin

allegrasmom said...

Salut à Jean-Martial et CAPITAINE ULYSSE de Tina, (Frank) et Allegra à bord OCEAN CHILD - 1980s!
Thank you to the Invisible Workshop for passing along this message if possible - greatly appreciated.

Jostar online said...

Thanks for sharing!
Sailing Yacht Ibiza

Tina DuBosque said...

Anonymous said...

Wondering where Jean Martial is now? I spent three years sailing with him in the mid 80s and would love to reconnect if any of you know of his whereabouts. So many adventures., Leslie Carrere, Ithaca, New York.

Tina DuBosque said...

Leslie! This is Tina of Ocean Child (lost off Champerico, Guatemala, 17 May 1987), Frank, Tina & Allegra (b Sep 1983). I am retired, a year-round kayaker, living in SE CT with husb #2. Allegra works in Cambridge MA a senior scientist in hematology. I also wonder where Jean Martial is. Going to FR in the Fall. Suspect that we've all had/continue to have many adventures. Be well.